Van Gundy: Bulls overachieved
While a Vinny Del Negro-John Paxson divorce might seem inevitable once the season ends, former coach and current television analyst Jeff Van Gundy believes the Chicago Bulls should stop and think about what they have accomplished this season before making changes.
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With conflicting reports about a physical confrontation between Del Negro and Paxson on March 30 surfacing the past two days, it appears the tension between the coach and executive has boiled over. But Van Gundy said the front office and coaching staff could use some stability.
"I know John Paxson -- I don't know what happened in this instance -- but he's a good man," Van Gundy said Thursday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "Gar Forman is a good guy. I think they are both very talented people, and I think Vinny is as well. Before thinking about what's next they should think about what they have in each other because they have some pretty good young players. With another strong draft and a free agent, keep some stability, and they're going to keep getting better. Derrick Rose and Jo Noah are the real deal. These guys are competitive guys. They just need some wingmen who have some more scoring ability."
Van Gundy credited Del Negro and his coaching staff with getting the most out of their team, which finished 41-41 and will play the Cleveland Cavaliers as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
"I think [the Bulls] have absolutely overachieved and maxed out their team," Van Gundy said. "I think Vinny Del Negro and his staff have done an incredible job. Last year the three critical components to them extending Boston to seven games [in the first round of the playoffs] were [Derrick] Rose, then [Ben] Gordon then John Salmons. And two of the three are not there this year. They have been eliminated."
The Bulls let Gordon sign with the Detroit Pistons as a free agent last summer and dealt Salmons to the Milwaukee Bucks at the trading deadline in February. Considering the loss in talent and the development of young players such as Rose, Noah and rookie Taj Gibson, Van Gundy has a hard time finding a reason to fire Del Negro.
"All their young players are at least as good, if not better than what was expected," Van Gundy said. "The team is limited. They made some financial decisions that they had to make. If they didn't feel like the offer from Detroit [for Gordon] was good for them, that's the right decision then. They decided to pass.
"But if you make that decision then you have to expect that a guy who is so valuable to your team, that you're going to lose more. I'm shocked that they only lost two more games than they did a year ago. I find what they have been able to accomplish with Noah's injury, [Luol] Deng's situation, the Salmons trade, I just think they have been able to overcome a lot. I think everybody in Chicago: owner, management, coaches and players can take great pride in a season when, the number of wins may not be exactly what you want, but it's certainly more than what should have been achieved."
Van Gundy found the timing of the conflicting reports about the Del Negro-Paxson altercation to be curious.
"Everybody is leaking stories all over the place," Van Gundy said. "That just kills me. Everybody says that game [Wednesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats] was the most important thing and yet sources all over the place are leaking stories. If you read the media, John Paxson attacked Vinny Del Negro or you read another report that Vinny Del Negro initiated the contact on John Paxson. I find that it's very ironic that here's a team that is heading into its most important game, and they are having to deal with that issue.
"I feel bad for everyone because the only ones who know the truth are the people in the room."